25-year-old Colonel Henry Knox unbelievably moved 59 cannons 300 miles in 3 months from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, considered by historian Victor Brooks as “one of the most stupendous feats of logistics.”
Knox had witnessed the Boston Massacre in 1770. He fled Boston with his wife Lucy after the British destroyed his bookshop.
On December 1, 1775, Knox was sent by 43-year-old General George Washington to bring the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston to help drive out the British who had occupied the city for seven months since the Battle of Bunker Hill, blockading the harbor and starving the inhabitants.
Knox and his men arrived at Fort Ticonderoga, put the cannons on big flat-bottomed boats, and rowed them through freezing weather to the southern end of Lake George.
Knox dragged the cannons across the snow, as he wrote to Washington, December 17, 1775:
“I have had made 42 exceedingly strong sleds and have provided 80 yoke of oxen to drag them as far as Springfield where I shall get fresh cattle to carry them…I hope in 16 or 17 days to be able to present your Excellency a noble train of artillery.”
They arrived at the Hudson River, but the ice was not thick enough to support the sleds and one sank.
On January 8, 1775, Knox wrote in his diary:
“Went on the ice about 8 o’clock in the morning and proceeded so carefully that before night we got over 23 sleds and were so lucky as to get the cannon out of the River, owing to the assistance the good people of the city of Albany gave.”
Knox arrived at Cambridge, Massachusetts, and on the night of March 4th, with a diversionary attack made to distract the British, Washington’s men wrapped wagon wheels with straw to muffle the noise and frantically moved the cannons up to a strategic point on Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston Harbor.
To make it appear even more impressive, they painted some logs to look like cannons.
The next morning an astonished British General Howe looked up at Dorchester Heights and remarked:
“The rebels did more in one night than my whole army would have done in one month.”
On MARCH 6, 1776, from his Cambridge Headquarters, General Washington ordered:
“Thursday, the 7th…being set apart by this Province as a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, ‘to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness, and that it would please Him to bless the Continental army with His divine favor and protection,’
all officers and soldiers are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverence and attention on that day to the sacred duties to the Lord of hosts for His mercies already received, and for those blessings which our holiness and uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through His mercy obtain.”
General Howe planned to land 3,000 troops and charge up Dorchester Heights, but a violent snowstorm arose causing the sea to be too turbulent for the attack.
General Washington wrote his brother, John Augustine Washington, March 31, 1776:
“Upon their discovery of the works next morning, great preparations were made for attacking them; but not being ready before the afternoon, and the weather getting very tempestuous, much blood was saved and a very important blow…prevented.
That this most remarkable Interposition of Providence is for some wise purpose, I have not a doubt.”
On March 8, General Howe sent word to Washington that if the British were allowed to leave Boston unmolested, they would not burn the city to the ground.
Eights days passed, and on March 16, 1776, the Continental Congress approved without dissent a resolution by General William Livingston:
“Congress….desirous…to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely…on his aid and direction…
do earnestly recommend…a Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease God’s righteous displeasure,
and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain this pardon and forgiveness.”
The next day, March 17, 1776, British General Howe ordered his troops onto their ships, and together with about a thousand British loyalists, including the parents Henry Knox’s wife, they evacuated Boston.
William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage.
To learn more about the author please visit William Federer
Featured image: Courtesy of Stapleton Collection/Corbis